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Re: Natural Farming for a Living

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  • Gloria C. Baikauskas
    Dieter, I read your posts and then thought again about the Man Who Farms Water. I can t think of his name at the moment. He is the man in Zimbabwe who was
    Message 1 of 92 , Jul 31, 2008
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      Dieter, I read your posts and then thought again about the Man Who
      Farms Water. I can't think of his name at the moment. He is the man
      in Zimbabwe who was accused of stealing all the water because he
      could grow crops in the dry season, and also because his well never
      ran dry when everyone else had those problems.

      Brad Lancaster from Arizona went there and learned from him....then
      experimented with the ideas in Arizona....and then wrote a wonderful
      set of books he called, "Rainwater Harvesting."

      Are you familiar with any of this?

      Leaving chaff on the ground, etc. should stop water runoff when it is
      wet encouraging a build up of groundwater there. I just read an
      article in Scientific American's June issue on No Till Farming. It
      did mention the use of herbicides, etc, as you did. It was neither
      an organic, nor a natural farming type of article. It was instead
      showing why there is an increase in no till farming, even though the
      yields, and losses are not satisfactory in the beginning. It did
      mention that Europe was behind in this method....that few are using
      it in Europe.

      When I was well I did experiment myself with swales and such to see
      what would happen here in Texas where we often have drought. It was
      great to see that the trees and plants where I had dug the swales, or
      even just holes to collect water near them. not suffer from the
      drought. Those not so lucky were often devoured by grasshoppers
      which plague us in drought years.

      I suspect, if you investigate some of the Zimbabwan ideas you may
      change your mind. I think they are probably doable even on larger
      tracts of land with good planning. It has changed things in Africa
      where, when there is no strife, agriculture does not stop when it is
      dry because of this wonderful Zimbabwan man.

      Gloria, Texas

      --- In fukuoka_farming@yahoogroups.com, Dieter Brand <diebrand@...>
      > Steve,
      > You are correct that "intellectually speaking" or in theory no-till
      could be useful in the arid regions of the World in that it is
      possible to improve the water retention properties of soil by
      avoiding soil disturbance and thus leaving the soil structure and the
      soil web (including roots, fungi, etc.) intact.  That is also the
      motivation behind my experiments.  In fact, in the irrigated part of
      the garden I have successfully used no-till, mulching and composting
      to reduce irrigation by about 80%.  However, there is a limit beyond
      which it is difficult to stretch the available water resources.
      > This year, I experimented with deep mulching (2 inch plus of hey,
      straw, etc.) to test if an organic mulch can be as effective at
      avoiding evaporation and suppressing weeds as the dirt mulch normally
      created in dryland farming by ploughing.  I used crops typically used
      for dryland farming such as beans, sunflowers, sorghum, etc.  I was
      surprised that many plants still had not wilted even after 3 months
      without rain and without irrigation.  However, the harvest produced
      is near zero.  I think I will be able to obtain better results next
      year by: earlier sowing, different seeds and better soil.  Still,
      whatever the results, the harvest will be too meager for commercial
      exploitation.  And what is more, it is gardening rather than farming,
      since no farmer can use the organic matter from 10 acres to produce a
      deep mulch for one acre only.
      > Most no-till is _conventional_ no-till, meaning, herbicides such as
      Monsanto¢s Roundup are regularly used to kill the cover crop and/or
      weeds.  This has nothing to do with Natural Farming.  When it comes
      to _organic no-till_ farming, which is equivalent to Fukuoka's
      continuous wheat/clover/rice cropping, there are very few working
      > The principal requirement for _organic no-till_ is to establish a
      continuous cropping system of cash and cover crops.  If there is any
      interruption in the crop rotation, e.g. during the dry season when it
      is too dry to grow a crop, the weeds will grow back and you have to
      start from zero.  Considering that it will take at least 2 to 3 years
      to achieve sufficient weed suppression solely by cover crops and
      without ploughing, the prospects are hopeless in dry regions where
      you have a dry season every year.
      > In practical terms this means, farmers in my region, either plough
      under the weeds of the summer fallow in November to grow a winter
      annual such as wheat, or they grow green manure such as lupines
      during the cool season, which is ploughed under in May at the onset
      of the dry season to grow a warm season annual such as corn,
      sunflowers etc. in a dirt mulch.  It is physically impossible to do
      this without ploughing.
      > What is more, in a _normal_ year we will have sufficient rain in
      November and April for seeds to germinate.  However, often the
      regular rains fail.  But even then, it is still possible to get the
      seeds to germinate with the soil humidity after ploughing since
      temperatures are not that high during these months.  Without
      ploughing seeds will not germinate without sufficient rain, and even
      if they did they would not be able to compete with the existing weeds.
      > In years with sufficient November rains, I have successfully grown
      crops (small grains, faba beans, etc.) during the cool season without
      ploughing by broadcasting the seeds into scrubland and then
      cutting/shredding the shrubs so as to create a mulch on top of the
      seeds.  However, this is not possible every year, since native shrubs
      will take 2 to 3 years to grow back and produce sufficient biomass. 
      Also, the problem of the interrupted crop rotation during the dry
      season, as explained above, still persists.
      > I still have some ideas I want to try out and I intend to continue
      my experiments as long as I don't run out of savings and as long as
      my old bones will permit, but whatever the results, I don't believe
      farmers in this region will be able to use this for making a living.
      > Dieter
      > PS:  Fukuoka did take a trip around the World to visit different
      farms and make some seedballs here and there.  But farming is not a
      road show, it takes the sustained effort of many years to rebuild
      depleted agricultural soil.  Fukuoka's writing did put a lot of ideas
      into people's head, but 60 years after he first developed his method,
      Natural Farming might as well not exist as a method for feeding
      people.  This sad state of affairs is mainly due to the fact that
      people are more interested in cultivating their cherished ideas than
      to cultivate the soil and to put to the test what will and what will
      not work in practice.
      > Dieter
    • grannis04
      -No, the chicken layer pellets are poultry feed for laying hens. It is grain based feed but if you want complete ingredients maybe check the label on the bag
      Message 92 of 92 , Jun 22, 2009
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        -No, the chicken layer pellets are poultry feed for laying hens. It is grain based feed but if you want complete ingredients maybe check the label on the bag at your feed store. Steve G.

        fukuoka_farming@yahoogroups.com, yarrow@... wrote:
        > So are chicken layer pellets similar to Sluggo (iron phosphate
        > pellets), which is sold as a nontoxic (to pets and wildlife) snail
        > and slug remedy at about $5-10 (est.) a pound in the U.S.? What's in
        > them? Do birds eat them, or do you need to hide them (as with Sluggo)?
        > At 11:00 PM +0000 6/22/09, grannis04 wrote:
        > ---Micheal, I don't know what a chicken later pellet would be but
        > chicken layer pellets are fed to laying hens. This really works and
        > is very inexpensive. A 50lbs. bag is about $12.00 here. Good luck,
        > Steve G.
        > >
        > >
        > > Steve, what is a chicken later pellet?
        > > Michael
        > >
        > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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